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FOR THE KIDS : Youngsters Volunteer to Make a Difference : An 8-year-old girl and her fellow Good Deeds Club members find satisfaction and joy in giving their time and efforts to causes.

July 08, 1993|JANE HULSE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Armed with trash bags, 8-year-old Sarah Phelps and her buddies spent a recent Saturday afternoon picking up refuse along the Ventura River near Ventura.

It was not a pretty sight. The girls were faced with an overflowing trash container and yucky stuff--diapers, cans, even someone's underwear--was strewn everywhere.

But it's the right stuff, if you're the Good Deeds Club. Sarah formed the club this spring, and its goal, quite simply, is to do good deeds.

The girls are among a number of kids who have gotten into the spirit of doing volunteer work. Some might do it to fulfill an academic requirement, but for others, it's enough to know they've done something for someone else.

That was the case with Sarah who just finished third grade at Oak View Elementary School, near Ojai.

"At school other kids had clubs," she said. "I wanted a club too. I also had in mind to do something good for other people." She typed up letters to prospective club members soliciting their involvement. At a meeting during recess, the five members came up with the name. The club logo is a rainbow with a helping hand at the end.

For their first good deed, they wanted to give away food. They made dozens of brownies and cupcakes and set up a table outside the Oak View Library. Although the food was a giveaway, the girls accepted donations for the library too. When they were finished, they handed over $29.20 to the library.

"I was flabbergasted--what generous little people," said librarian Kit Willis. The money will augment the library's summer reading program.

The girls' parents have offered to help out with each do-gooder deed the girls take on. Jessica Murray, mother of 9-year-old Julia Murray, was at the library for the food handout.

"I'm really tickled they are into helping other people," Jessica Murray said. "I see so many kids who just want to get everything they can. I'll try to let the girls do as much as they can."

Although Sarah is moving to Oklahoma this summer, the rest of the girls insist that the work they've started will carry on. And Sarah plans to start a Good Deeds Club in her new neighborhood.

*

When Megan Hughes was 6 years old, her parents took her to the Stagecoach Inn Museum in Newbury Park. She was enthralled with the pioneer history of the Conejo Valley and awed by the docents who wore old-fashioned clothing and knew so much about those days.

Megan pressured her mother to find out if she could be a docent too, although the museum staff had never had one that young. By the next year, though, they decided to let her have a crack at it.

"They doubted it would work," said Megan's mother, Therese Hughes. Megan was given some training by another volunteer and some papers to study about the inn's kitchen, where she would be stationed.

But Megan, now 11 and a sixth-grader at Newbury Park's Maple Elementary School, has been a docent ever since.

She works one or two Sundays a month showing visitors around the kitchen. She wears a prairie dress, apron, and pantaloons--all made by her mother--and high button boots.

She shows visitors the icebox, the old-style telephone, how the pioneers put eggshells in the pot when they brewed coffee, and how they used a razor-like gizmo to shave ice for a treat on a hot day.

"Sometimes when I walk into the kitchen, people are real surprised," Megan said. "At the end they applaud."

Megan has always been a history buff, she said. On vacations, her family often visits museums.

"She'd be there every weekend if I let her," her mother said.

Megan has been such a success that the museum staff has begun a junior docent program for youths 10 and older, and now there are four other kids who regularly help out.

"We found people were very responsive to them," said Sandy Hildebrandt, director of the museum. For more information about the junior docent program at the museum, call 498-9441.

*

In addition to several hospitals in the county, other organizations accept volunteer help from kids of varying ages. Here are a few:

VENTURA COUNTY LIBRARY SERVICES AGENCY: Kids 9 to 14 years old can volunteer at local libraries through the Unicorn Guild program. The volunteers help with the children's summer reading program, in addition to assisting with story hours, craft projects, cleaning and shelving books and working the copy machine. Kids should apply at their local library. For information, call 652-7541. For information about Thousand Oaks Library's teen volunteer program, call 497-6282. And for Oxnard Library's volunteer program for kids 13 and older, call 385-7512.

UNITED WAY OF VENTURA COUNTY: Kids work along with adults on various projects during United Way's Day of Caring, scheduled for Sept. 11. For information, call 485-6288.

STATE PARKS AND RECREATION: At state beaches, kids can pick up a bag of trash and trade it in for a poster of an animal. Bags are available at lifeguard kiosks. For information, call 654-4611.

RANCHO SIMI PARK AND RECREATION DISTRICT: Kids 12 and older can volunteer for a number of chores including clerical work, assisting with recreation classes and sporting events, and periodically, trail cleanup. Volunteers are especially needed in the Oak Park area. For information, call 584-4400.

PROJECT UNDERSTANDING: Volunteers 14 years and older can help out at this Ventura-based organization that provides food and other assistance. Kids can tutor elementary-age children one hour a week, in addition to stocking pantry shelves, helping at the front desk, working on the newsletter, making posters, updating computer information, and working in the thrift shop. For information, call 652-1326.

CITY OF VENTURA: Kids in middle school and older can help out with mailings and special events. For information, call 654-7850.

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